Saturday, August 21, 2021

#17 Children Of Telepathic Experiences - Gerling

were the first band I ever posted about here on Inventory Full, and for Blaugust 2019, no less. Good thing I wasn't being ironic when I said all those nice things about repetition the other day!

Everyone, of course, will have forgotten all about that post, except perhaps for Quin, who left a comment thanking me for reminding him Gerling existed. I'd completely forgotten it myself until I came to write this and even then I wrote today's piece all unknowing. I didn't re-read the old one until later.

If anyone does happen to remember, don't let it stop you reading this one, too. There's some overlap but fortunately, after a similar start, the two pieces go in somewhat different directions. If you want more of a discography, the original is the place. This post focuses more on why I picked this album for the list. Well, kind of.

As this feature rolls out, two clear themes are beginning to emerge:

  1. I can't always remember where I first heard a band or artist
  2. I'm not always sure if I picked the right album from their back catalog for this list

One of those applies here and it's definitely not the first. I can remember with almost halucinatory clarity my first encounter with Gerling. It wasn't anything as personal or dramatic as seeing them live, let alone chatting to someone in the band. It was just happening upon them by chance on YouTube

The reason I remember it so well is that what I saw was this:

Watching it again today (and I've seen it several times over the last couple of weeks) I'm astonished by its continuing power to confuse, confound and concern. A point I've made before is how quickly shock power fades with exposure. Not this time it doesn't.

That was the exact clip I saw several years ago. The one that led me to buy three of Gerling's albums and put me in the position last month of not being quite sure which one it was I ought to recommend to Pitchfork as a contender for favorite album of the last twenty-five years.

In the end I went with the one that has that first song I ever saw them do, the disturbingly-titled Death to the Apple Gerls. At that point I hadn't yet seen this:

It's the same appearance from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Saturday morning "youth-oriented" TV show Recovery, only with the full framing introduction and interview segments left in. It just adds to the legend. Even if you  already clicked through and watched the first video, I strongly recommend you watch all of this one as well.

Eighties and especially nineties "youth" TV has a deservedly wretched reputation but in my opinion it was never meant to be watched by "youths". I was in my twenties and thirties when I watched just about all of it there was to watch. All my peer group watched it. We had jobs and we were happy to slump in front of the TV of an evening or slouch on the couch hungover on a Saturday or Sunday morning. This kind of thing was about as much as we could manage sometimes. I imagine actual "youths" had far better things to do.

You can clearly see in the longer clip that the Recovery audience wish they did. They have the traditional bussed-in, bemused victim look audiences for these things so often have. Other than one small, hyperactive cheering section, who may or may not be friends of the band, the rest of the audience look as if they couldn't tell Gerling from Goering (although given the Canadian guitarist's disturbing straight-arm salute at the end that might not be as large a leap as you'd imagine).

The more I see of Australian music TV (on YouTube, naturally) the more slapdash and homemade it appears. British youth TV of the time was self-consciously louche and awkward but this just looks like it was made by amateurs by accident. Gerling give that impression too but don't be fooled. They know exactly what they're doing.

So many things going on with them. The straight-from-school look, complete with backpacks. That pillar of hair standing straight up. The thousand-yard stares. The screaming. The breakdown where it seems they can't even play their instruments (after being tight as fuck until then). Just the simple fact of them being a power trio with no bass player.

Every time I watch that clip I see something new in it and now there's the longer one to parse, too. It's filled with joys. My favorite part? Where the presenter asks the question I've been wondering for years- "What's an Apple Gerl?" and gets the answer "It's a small fish from Fiji". It is not.

For a short, ad hoc interview, a lot gets revealed. The band namecheck Harmony Korine as "our friend in New York", something that adds a whole new layer of unhealthiness to the operation. There's mention of the change of musical direction away from the No Wave stylings of Apple Gerls and the indie-influenced emo/punk of Ghost Patrol to what would become their signature computer-derived dancefloor-oriented sound as exemplified by the sublime Enter, Space Capsule. I learned a lot. Educational youth TV at its finest.

I love Gerling. They sound like no other Australian band I've ever heard. They sound like a lot of things all at once. They're sometimes compared to the Beastie Boys and I can see why but you might as well say they're like the Fall or Devo or Shonen Knife. In the end they're like no-one but themselves. 

I wish they were still making music.


  1. If it matters any, I find thse music posts super informative. Gives me some more rabbit holes to chase. Like finding another room at the buffet with even more stuff

    1. Thanks for taking the trouble to mention it. It does help a lot. I do these for my own pleasure but I very much hope someone's finding at least a few new things to enjoy out of the odd one or two!


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